By MARQ BURNETT, ledger-enquirer.com:
Call it an early test. Despite Alabama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin expressing his interest to call the game from the press box, Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban said the players would be better served with Kiffin on the sidelines. During Saban’s time at Alabama, former offensive coordinators Major Applewhite, Jim McElwain and Doug Nussmeier have all called plays from the press box during their tenures. But with a new coordinator breaking in a new quarterback, Saban made the decision to take a new approach and put Kiffin “on the field.”
By Andrew Gribble, al.com:
This game will determine whether Alabama can not only show it’s moved on from the consecutive losses that ended 2013 in miserable fashion, but also show it’s better at slowing down an uptempo, no-huddle attack such as the Mountaineers’. Three things to look for: 1. Distribution of wealth: Alabama’s got three running backs it hopes to get involved early and often against a Mountaineers rush defense that allowed more than 190 rushing yards per game last season. How it utilizes T.J. Yeldon, Derrick Henry and Kenyan Drake remains to be seen. 2. Speed ball: The last time Alabama faced an uptempo, no-huddle offense, it walked away from the Superdome on the wrong side of an embarrassing 45-31 loss to Oklahoma. Alabama’s players have said they’ve moved on from how 2013 ended. 3. The QBs. Duh.: Blake Sims and Jacob Coker threw hundreds of passes throughout August in preparation for the Crimson Tide’s season opener.
By Ken Rogers, Dothan Eagle:
Sure, Blake Sims and Jake Coker are probably feeling some nerves today. But Lane Kiffin is right there with them – and on the sidelines, to boot. Alabama’s offensive coordinator makes his debut with two unproven quarterbacks, a true freshman at left tackle and expectations that this is the most potent Crimson Tide offense in the Nick Saban era – at least from a playmaker standpoint. Whatever changes Kiffin makes to the offense come with an asterisk, as Saban said this week. “It’s got to fit in with what the players can do,” the head coach said.
By Charlie Potter, BamaOnline.com:
Take a look at some preseason All-American teams. Scroll through a few of them, and it won’t be long until one constant factor sticks out. Landon Collins’ name is on the first-team defense of every one of them. Collins was an integral part of the Crimson Tide’s defense in his nine starts last season, especially after stepping into the strong safety spot following Vinnie Sunseri’s season-ending injury in the Arkansas game. Alabama’s junior safety finished second on the team in tackles with 70 total tackles, trailing only C.J. Mosley (108), last year. He also recorded two interceptions and returned them for 89 total yards and one touchdown.
I do doubt Alabama will win three national titles in four years again if for no other reason that a playoff makes upsets more likely. However, Alabama is still going to be one of the top teams in the country, year-in and year-out, for one simple reason: Talent. Recruiting is the lifeblood of any program, and Nick Saban has created a recruiting juggernaut at Alabama that is unmatched in recorded history. I know that recruiting ranking can be a bit arbitrary and inaccurate, but by and large, they give you a pretty good idea of who is hauling in the most talent. And the best teams haul in the most talent.
By Bill Livingston, The Plain Dealer:
Picking the winner of the first college football playoffs and the Heisman Trophy. The Final Four: 1. Florida State: This holds only if Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston is cleverer with the ball, as is to be expected after last year’s national title, than he was in being cited for stealing crab legs at a grocery store. 2. Alabama: Just remember, it’s a process, as coach Nick Saban says endlessly. In the process of The Process, alas, he put huge blockers who couldn’t run on the field and gave up a season-shattering loss to Auburn on a 109-yard, last-play returns of a missed field goal.
By Andrew Gribble, al.com:
Nick Saban didn’t reveal the “big announcement” many fans were hoping to hear during his Thursday radio show but he provided a little more clarity on Alabama’s quarterback battle two days before the season opener. Saban didn’t name a starter for Saturday’s game against West Virginia but opened up more than he has in previous instances about the competition between senior Blake Sims and Florida State transfer Jacob Coker. Both Sims and Coker were listed as the first-team quarterback on Alabama’s first official depth chart, and it remained that way after Saban took off his headset and departed Bob’s Victory Grille.
By Marc Torrence, Bleacher Report:
The Alabama defense was dealt a significant blow Wednesday when Alabama coach Nick Saban announced that preseason All-SEC linebacker Trey DePriest will miss the Crimson Tide’s season opener against West Virginia due to a “minor NCAA infraction.” Saban did not disclose the infraction or any more details but said that DePriest would only miss Saturday’s game and will be back for Florida Atlantic. It’s a significant loss, to be sure, as DePriest was named to just about every preseason All-SEC team, including the media’s and coaches’. But Alabama has the depth and talent at inside linebacker to overcome this loss and shouldn’t miss a beat on that side of the ball against the Mountaineers.
There will be familiar faces playing quarterback at some not-so-familiar places this season. Here are several quarterbacks who transferred and will be making debuts with their new teams this year: Michael Brewer, Virginia Tech: A preseason back injury hindered Brewer’s hopes of emerging as Texas Tech’s starting quarterback last year, and he assumed a backup role upon his return Jacoby Brissett, North Carolina State: Brissett made three career starts at Florida, but he fell behind Jeff Driskel on the depth chart and decided to look elsewhere.